College endowments grew by nearly 12% in 2013, according to an annual survey of 835 institutions by Commonfund and the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
The largest U.S. endowments are Harvard’s at $32 billion and Yale’s at $20 billion. The nation’s top two liberal arts college endowments are at Williams and Amherst colleges.
Nationally, the endowments have rebounded after a decade of roughly 7.1% annual growth. But, as Inside Higher Education noted, “Colleges need to see annual returns of about 9% to actually increase their endowments because they typically spend about 5% of their fund each year on things like financial aid, and they have to keep up with inflation.”
To some extent, healthy endowments mean the difference between institutional strength and vulnerability. Some labor activists, however, have questioned why endowments were protected even as staff were cut during the Great Recession.